© Robert W. Eshbach, 2013

Previous Post in Series: After the London Debut: Tharandt


JJ Initials

Return to Leipzig 

Leipzig Illust 

Leipzig [i]

optima quaeque dies miseris mortalibus aevi prima fugit.

                                                           — Virgil, Georgics Book III

Autumn found Joseph back in Leipzig. Nevertheless, the issue of a move to Paris was still alive as Joseph sent Rosh Hashanah greetings to his parents: [1]

Joseph Joachim to his parents: [i]

                                                                        Leipzig, 12 Sept. 44

Dearest Parents,

How happy I am to be able to offer you, too, my affectionate good wishes at the beginning of this year! May the Almighty sustain you yet many, many years, to your joy and your children’s, and allow your grandchildren and theirs still to experience great joys. It shall always be my keenest ambition, dear parents, to please you by my diligence and my behavior.

I received your dear letter on Monday, and with great joy learned from it of your good health, and that of my brothers and sisters. I have been here for 3 weeks, and have already begun my lessons with Mr. Hauptmann; unfortunately, my German teacher, Mr. Hering is still so busy that he will hardly be able to teach me until two weeks from now. This winter, I hope to benefit quite a lot, not only musically, but in all the other subjects as well. I get up every day at 6 o’clock (except Sunday), study Latin or something else until breakfast, and occupy myself all morning with music, that is, with violin playing, composition, figured-bass assignments, etc. At 1 o’clock we eat; at 2:30 I go to work again and write until 4; then I play the piano until 6 and then go walking with dear Hermann and dear Fanny. We usually return home around 7:30, and have tea, which — I say this as a sign of my good health, dear Mother — I partake of with a big appetite. I play the violin again for another hour, until 9, and read — sometimes I also learn something by Schiller, until around 10, when I have a cold wash and go to bed, and sleep without turning until 6.

Mendelssohn will not be spending the winter here, to my, and all Leipziger’s deepest regret — I am composing a concerto, and diligently write fugues. In the course of the winter I hope to play the Beethoven concerto publicly here as well. — Now, Adieu, dear parents. May the holidays pass off for you as pleasantly as the heart would wish.

Your adoring


P.S. I still dare to hope that I will see you here this winter, and fear that it may not come to pass. Dear brothers and sisters, I kiss you, and still wish you much joy, and to your dear children, and everything that you wish for yourselves. Kiss dear: Carl, Edi, Hugo, Willi, Theodor, Ernst, Felix for



[Addendum in Fanny’s hand]

Dear Uncle and dear Aunt!

In all haste I wish you everything good imaginable for the New Year, and greet you most affectionately. If I have written you nothing about Jos. and your suggestion to take him to Paris, it is because I don’t know what to say about it. Mendels. has sufficiently explained his position as to Jos. education in the letter you are familiar with. You, as father, may be of a different opinion, and indeed undertake it. Jos. is big and strong has red cheeks a. is very enthusiastic; if one gives him time he will profit a great deal. The mail is leaving. Therefore, I bid you farewell!

Your Fanny.

In October, Joseph sent news of his activities to Böhm in Vienna:

Joseph Joachim to Joseph Böhm [ii]

                                                                        Leipzig, 15 October 1844

Beloved Herr Professor,

It was certainly not due to forgetfulness that I have not written to you for so long, for whenever I think about my London trip and its success, I remember you with deepest gratitude, my honored Master, whom I have mostly to thank. —

I am happy for you that in the coming winter you will finally see your dear Ernst. Now that I have the honor of knowing him myself, I can very well understand your love for him; he is really the sweetest man that one can imagine, and certainly the greatest virtuoso. I hope to see him soon, since he will come here in the next day or two. I have also heard Prume; [2] I didn’t like him particularly well. His tone seems to me pretty but not large, his bowing is not excellent and his interpretation not particularly inspired, his compositions not at all original. His right [sic] hand is very good though, and in this respect he is a really considerable violinist. He will go to Vienna next season as well. The Gewandhaus concerts have started up already; I wrote to you last year about the their excellence.

I am now practicing a Quatour brillant in B minor (Opus 61) by Spohr, which I like a lot. I also play Paganini quite alot, as well as old Bach, whose Adagio and Fugue for violin solo I played publicly in London.

My violin concerto will be finished soon. For Hauptmann I am composing songs, which should not fail to have an effect in houses where there are lots of mice and rats.

Remember me, beloved Professor, to your dear, honored wife, and don’t totally forget

Your pupil who loves you most dearly

Joseph Joachim

Maurer Program


Though still a child, Joseph was now accepted as a colleague by the greatest violinistic talents of the age. Together with Ernst, Bazzini and David, he played Maurer’s virtuosic Concertante, Op. 55 for four violins in a November 25 Gewandhaus concert, for the benefit of the orchestra pension fund — the same work that he had refused to play in London out of loyalty to Ernst. “In the cadenzas,” writes Alfred Dörffel, “[Ernst and Bazzini] played out their highest trumps; but they were so charmingly and ingeniously out-conjured by Joachim, who had the third part, that Ernst involuntarily burst out with a loud “Bravo!” and David, the fourth player, left out his cadenza completely. That was no doubt a unique occurrence.” [iv] This incident was not mentioned by the reviewer for the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, who nevertheless reported enthusiastically upon what was surely one of the most entertaining of violinist-summits:

The ending of the concert consisted of the well-known Concertante for four violins by L. Maurer. It would not be easy to find a performance by such excellent forces, executed with such perfection, as occurred this time. To see artists such as Ernst, Bazzini, David, and the talented young Joachim, united in one aim — to observe how one strove to surpass the other in tone and handling of the same instrument, and yet all subordinating their individuality to the total effect wherever there was an ensemble, provided a rare and great interest. The ensemble was indeed masterful; it was as if one instrument, one bowstroke set the full chords ringing, and with the alternate emergence of one or the other violinist, the innate individuality of tone and conception fascinated the listener no less than the consummate finish of the whole. Near the end, an elaborate cadenza, which afforded each violinist an opportunity to assert himself in his own way, incited the audience to stormy applause. [v]

On the following day, Fanny Wittgenstein reported:

Fanny Wittgenstein to an unknown recipient

                                                                        Leipzig November 26, 1844 [vi]

Dearest Aunt,

I feel doubly induced to write you: first to thank you for the dear, cordial letter that I received today; second in order not to withhold from you and the others the joyous account of Joseph’s appearance yesterday. I wish his parents and all of you could have seen him playing between Ernst, Bazzini and David, all in a row. Maurer’s Quartet is not exactly the most beautiful music; it takes 4 masters to play all the passages together within a hair of one another with all possible nuances, and, in a word, to deliver a beautifully unified performance.

The concert was given for a select and noble cause; only the Quartet caused a furore, and the fact that Josef stood there on an equal footing with three respected artists naturally made the main impression.  Jos. profits a great deal as an artist from Ernst, because he is stimulated to work hard.

It is a joy to see such a talented boy develop; but this also has its downside. One can imagine that everyone loves him and that he receives praise from all quarters; there is no social event to which he is not directly or indirectly invited; this creates a certain attitude, and encourages an error that most clever children have, that we call being a “Schnaberl” [3] — something that naturally leads to occasional unpleasant scenes between Jos. and me. His early development leads to some difficulties, because he is too accomplished to attend school like others of his age, and to attend a lot of classes, but he is not mature enough to work seriously and with perseverance in his room alone.

David doesn’t want to give him any more lessons — he allows him to come from time to time so he can hear him. Hauptmann also finds it unnecessary to give him lessons very often, because he is so quick at the theory of composition, and so he is left to himself to learn and progress, which his 13 years hinder him from doing, since the thing he wants most to do is to race and tussle with the children. Enough, he is still a child, and that is his best tribute, because he fiddles in such a completely natural and innate way, and not affectedly, and he is well on his way to developing normally, both physically and mentally. Just yesterday, Ernst said, after some comment by Joseph, “Yes, one can say that a person can play the violin well and still be a child.” His parents and relatives can do him the great favor of having patience and giving him time — to let him reach 17 or 18 before he brings something properly to fruition. Everything is eagerly begun— concerto, quartet — but the endurance to complete something is missing, because he has no faith in his compositions.

Even as a violin player, I am also very doubtful that he will do well financially. Ernst gave a concert here that was half-full, in spite of the many complimentary tickets that he gave out; but in the theater, and in a concert where he played gratis, it was empty.

Due to its great popular success, the performance of Maurer’s Concertante was reprised on December 12, in a subscription concert of the Gewandhaus Orchestra. [vii] The applause was such that the soloists repeated the conclusion of the piece, this time with differently improvised cadenzas.

On November 29, Joseph took part in a performance of Mendelssohn’s Octet at a private soirée in the home of music publisher Hermann Härtel, attended by Mendelssohn, Robert und Clara Schumann, Moscheles, Hauptmann and Livia Frege. [viii] The players again included David, Ernst, Bazzini and Joachim playing the violin parts, together with Niels Gade and Otto von Königslöw on viola, and Julius Rietz and Andreas Grabau, cello. Such private gatherings were an almost daily feature of Leipzig’s musical life, and formed a significant part of Joseph’s musical upbringing. Henry Chorley mentions the “apparent ease and conformity to daily habit” that this informal music-making exuded, and remarks on “the very kindness and domesticity of the pleasure.” [ix] Ignaz Moscheles, recently arrived from London, frequently joined the company. “Here I find a genuine artistic atmosphere, where good music seems native to the place,” he wrote to his wife Charlotte. “Yesterday I had a quiet evening with David, who played me the new violin Concerto which Felix has expressly written for him. It is most beautiful, the last movement thoroughly Mendelssohnian, tripping like a dainty elf.” [x]

Screen shot 2014-01-07 at 4.58.15 PM

Ignaz Moscheles


Next Post in Series: Ferdinand David

[1] In 1844, the first day of Tishrei was September 14.

[2] François Hubert Prume (1816-1849), Belgian virtuoso, was professor of violin in Liège from the age of seventeen. His most prominent pupils were his nephew, Frantz Jehin-Prume, and Hubert Léonard. He died of cholera at the age of 33.

[3] Stuck-up, literally: a “little beak.”

[i] British Library BL, family corresp., Add. MS 42718

[ii] Joachim/BRIEFE I, pp. 2-3. [Author’s translation after Bickley]

[iii] Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig

[iv] “In den Cadenzen spielten die beiden zuerst genannten, Ernst voran, ihre höchsten Trümpfe aus; sie wurden aber mit der Kadenz von Joachim, der die dritte Stimme hatte, in einer so genial-liebenswürdigen Weise ‘escamotirt’, dass Ernst unwillkürlich in ein lautes ‘Bravo!’ ausbrach und David als vierter Spieler seine Kadenz dann ganz wegliess. Das war wohl ein Ereignis einzig in seiner Art.” Dörffel/GEWANDHAUS, p. 110.

[vi] British Library BL, family corresp., Add. MS 42718, p. 201, probably Fanny F to Fanny J: this letter exists in a different hand, marked “Copie.”

[vii] See review in AMZ, Vol. 46, No. 51 (December, 1844): 867-868.

[viii] See: Reineke/ERLEBNISSE, p. 219, Litzmann/SCHUMANN II, p. 77.

[ix] Chorley/MUSIC, p. 97.